Social media is one of the most misunderstood marketing channels out there. To the uninitiated, it seems like people can simply make a few viral posts on Facebook or Twitter and make their business an overnight sensation.
Whereas these stories have, indeed, occurred, they are more akin to winning the lottery than an actual social media strategy or practice. Many people come at social media thinking it’s something simple that can deliver enormously. And while that’s true in some cases, for the average business, it takes some effort and energy to get it off the ground. Social media an important facet of digital marketing basics, but each business needs its own unique approach for its own unique needs.
[New to Digital Marketing? Read our Digital Marketing Guide for Beginners]
Furthermore, people often get concerned about something they post on social media going viral in a negative way. We’ve all heard about people getting fired or businesses getting boycotted from offensive posts. This is a genuine concern, although it’s also something that’s pretty easy to avoid. There is a suite of small business apps that can help you get this job done, and we’ll go over all of this and more in this post. Just make sure to remember that social media is but one facet of marketing strategies for small business. It is important and will require your time, but not at the expense of other things. That being said, let’s jump in!
What is Social Media? Is it Important?
Social media is the collection of platforms on which individual users can post content, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, among others. Some platforms are more text-based, others more visual with photos and videos.
Many people ask “is social media important?” In general, yes, it is important. But the question that a business owner should be asking is “is social media important for my business?” This might seem obvious, but the truth is that the importance of social media is going to be drastically different for an individual starting a construction business versus a chef looking for catering business advertising ideas.
When it comes to your social media strategy, you have to ask yourself “where are my prospective customers?” There are people out there willing to give you money in exchange for your business’s services — so where are they located? For instance, if you’ve started a construction business and focus mainly on commercial office space, you’re likely going to have different needs from a catering business looking to
Furthermore, there are smaller platforms like Pinterest and Snapchat are out there, but what you need to ask when deciding what platforms to exist on is, “are these people my ideal targets?” There are a few exceptions to this, but for the overwhelming majority of your marketing needs, this is where you start with a social media strategy.
The Platforms & How to Use Them
As noted above, the first question you ask is “is this right for my business?” and, “are my customers on here?” So let’s go over the platforms and the social media basics that will make them work for you.
Facebook is the most common platform for people over the age of 30, and some in their mid-20s as well. This is going to get the broadest audience and likely be the most effective social media strategy you’ll have. If you’re a business in a traditional trade like construction, lawn care business, or property management, Facebook is going to be one of your more productive outlets for letting people know you exist, also known a “brand awareness.”
On this platform, it’s best to post 3–5 times per week at minimum. Try making posts that will help people even before they’re your customers. If you’re a cleaning service, you might post a camera video of a neat trick to get caked on soap scum off of shower tiles, or if you’re a construction company, maybe show a video of preventative maintenance on a house or apartment. The reason you give away little bits for free is because, more likely than not, they will use these to evaluate whether or not they want to work with you. Don’t worry, it won’t lose you business — quite the opposite. You will be showing your customers that (a) you are a subject-matter expert (b) you know what they need before they need it. This goes a long way to promoting trust.
Twitter is a unique animal. Some places will insist that you should post unique things to Twitter alone, and to cultivate your tweets like flowers in a garden. This is effective for industries that exist on Twitter. Something like a catering company could get a lot of distance out of Twitter, but a commercial construction company likely wouldn’t.
For Twitter, the thing is that it’s really easy to have a presence — and one that simply reflects your Facebook presence. So in order to possibly reach an audience that isn’t on Facebook, Twitter can help. And, to that end, you can set up a posting service to post your Facebook posts to Twitter as well. There are some marketing experts that would say this is improper — and if you’re a tech startup that is working on some crazy, new-fangled computer software, that’s true. But if you are a more “salt of the earth” business, then this strategy will be sufficient — there are more important things for a business owner like yourself to worry about than having a “pretty Twitter.” In terms of digital marketing basics, only carve out time on Twitter if you know that your target customers are there.
Although popular now, it’s still a fairly unique platform. It’s definitely prioritized by millenials, but the truth is that the youngest millennials are now in their mid 20s, thus making them the prospective customers of most businesses now. Even though they purchase homes at a lower rate than previous generations, they still have a need for many of the services you likely offer.
Instagram is simply a visual platform with millions of users. So, did you build something that looks really good? Take a picture of it. Maybe you’re a new caterer in town and want to showcase just how delicious your food it? Make a dinner for your friends using your favorite menu and post videos of them doing a taste test of the various dishes. Are you a janitorial services company? Do a video showing how to get gum out of carpet — you will be a hero to thousands.
This is, hands down, one of the most effective platforms to make the public aware of your business. With YouTube, you can do as many videos you want that show how to do something or simply showcase what you do. Eventually, you can then use those videos as paid ads as well. But regardless, even with zero money paid, you can develop a channel that becomes quite popular. This is a great way for people to learn about you. Then, when they’re looking to do something like fix a clogged drain or decorate a plate for a dinner party, your company is there to show them the way. Many people will see your skill, maybe try it themselves, but likely will determine that they really want your skill for the job.
For things like Pinterest, Snapchat, WeChat, WhatsApp, Tumblr, etc., for the most part I would say that they aren’t really all that necessary, with a few exceptions. Mainly, it’s about showing what you can do. Ask yourself if your people are there, then base your decision off that fact.
No matter what, you still want to showcase the same topics as other media. For instance, if you’re a cleaning service or a catering company, posting useful tips on Pinterest could be a great way to get new business. That’s also somewhat true of a general contractor looking for new residential clients. If you show people how to do things themselves, or DIY, you aren’t really “giving away” your business. The truth is that, especially for the more complicated things you show, the people who watch your “how to” videos, pictures, and posts will not have the same skill you do. More often than not, people are looking at your ability to teach what you know and using that as an assessment of your ability to perform the work.
Again, the most important element for
Need an Affordable Time Clock App for Your Employees? Try out ezClocker for FREE!
Content Calendars and Post Schedulers
One of the best ways to save time with social media is to create an editorial calendar. Basically, in a spreadsheet, divide the month into four-week sections for each platform you will be posting on. Then, draft the posts that make sense for that day. For instance, if the post is during the work week, maybe make it about the kind of work you do. If it’s on the weekend, maybe a post about relaxing and recharging, getting ready for the upcoming week. If you work weekends, show it — let people know that you’re always ready to help at a moment’s notice! Then, make sure you post something nice for holidays in the calendar month.
This will only take a couple of hours to put together. Then, you can feed the items into a Post Scheduling program. We’ll go over them in more detail below, but basically they allow you to automate your posts, leaving you to focus on the day-to-day parts of your business.
There are many online tools that can help supercharge your productivity and save you a lot of time and money. Let’s take a look at them:
Canva is a “drag and drop” graphic design program that allows you to do everything from basic image editing to generating flyers, business cards, mailers, social media posts and more. If you’re looking for something that’s more professional than MS Paint yet just as easy to use, Canva is the tool for you!
VUE is an app for your phone that allows you to make simple edits right on your mobile device without having to pay a video editor a lot of money. These are great for cutting out extra stuff you don’t need in videos you record, add text, and a lot of other great features. If you’re going to be posting video content, it’s a must.
The Recurpost tool is one of our favorites, it allows you to schedule your posts to various social platforms and create a schedule as to when you want them posted. It has the ability to recycle your posts so you only have to post them once. For example, if you have 10 posts scheduled then the tool will recycle and post them again after it’s done.
Hashtags create a “web” of all posts that use them and make your posts easier for strangers to find. For instance, if you’re posting images of food, using a hashtag like #foodie or #instafood. And you can test the popularity of that hashtag with hashtagify.me. This will just help you to know which hashtags you should use in your own posts to reach the broadest audience possible.
While you’re at it, make sure to take a look at our other article on great productivity tools for your small business.
Consistency is Key
Don’t be too scared to post things on a regular basis. It’s very likely only a fraction of your audience will see a single post, so often is good. For a small business, it’s likely better to stay out of politics and current events for the most part. Instead, focus on what you do best and showcase that to the world.
Remember that it’s better to consistently post things that are mediocre than to not post anything at all. Absence from your channel is noticed — especially when people start looking at your history to see if you’re legitimate or not.
This doesn’t mean you should just post “anything,” nor does it mean you should accept low quality, but it does mean that you can make the perfect the enemy of the good. That will cripple your digital marketing strategy. Think of social media posts like a pitcher in a baseball game. Not every single pitch is going to be a strike. Not every strike will be a strikeout. And sometimes, you might give up a home run. The key is that you still have to pitch, regularly and consistently, if you want a chance to win.